“Let me marry / Or buy me a banjo / For I must pluck / At something!” sings Milosli Dragichevitch, a Serb from Ozren Mountain in Bosnia. Milosh is a 50-year-old whose eyes twinkle darkly as he laughs at jokes about Serbs and Turks, made up by someone diabolical, somewhere in Bosnia. “Two Red Berets,” he says, “come upon the border crossing with the ‘Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’ and ask whether all three of them must show their papers. ‘Which three of you?’ asks the border guard, ‘when I see only two?’ ‘But,’ says one of the Red Berets, ‘what about Hassan here?’ and he takes out the severed head of a Muslim from his traveling bag.”
The Ozren Serbs laugh, and Vaskersiye Petkovitch strums his long-necked mandolin, called a shargiya, spinning off a fast, furious, angry Ozren Serb tune smacking of bagpipes and dark, dark bygones. “All their tunes,” wrote Sir Arthur Evans (the discoverer of Mycenae) of Bosnian Serbs in 1875, “are contaminated by the accursed bagpipes, even if that instrument has—over time—been transformed into others!”
As for the severed “Turk” head mentioned in Milosh Dragicheviteh’s joke, it is entirely possible: Red Berets, a crack Serb unit, have been known to sneak into Muslim trenches and carve up their occupants. Red Berets, young, disciplined, deadly warriors initially trained by the mvsterious Captain Dragan at a Kraina training camp, have scores to settle, long left untended.
Milosh Dragichevitch, whom I have known since college, first told me the story of Mitcho Stupar, our friend who always smiled like a wistful boy. Blond, pale Stupar never talked much, but Milosh told me that Stupar had seen his whole family—seven brothers and sisters, his father and his mother—butchered with knives by the Croat and Muslim Ustashi back in 1943. A child of seven then (and a diplomatic official of Yugoslavia today), Stupar ran off into the forest and slept in a hollow tree for seven days and nights. Stupar is now divorced, because his second wife, like his first, could not stand his screams when he dreamt of his parents and siblings.
Though I have known Milosh for close to 30 years, it took the renewed Serbo-Muslim-Croat war for him to tell me of his father, whom the Croat and Muslim Ustashi, many from the neighboring town of Crachanitza, collected in the spring of 1942 and sent to Jasenovac, the Croat death camp. “I dream of my father,” says Milosh, “though I don’t remember his face. I dream of him more and more, as I grow older. The memory does not fade—my father’s face has started to twitch, and move, to come alive from his wedding photograph.” “The Ustashi,” he says seriously, “are losing their faces, which I have always, in my dreams, seen as the faces of the Muslims from across the river. They are becoming mere walking slabs of flesh, with red, raw butchers’ fingers and white aprons, over their black, spotless SS uniforms.” Milosh is a kind and gentle man, an architect whom I can’t imagine getting angry; his face, however, for a moment appears rock hard and his eyes glint like black, polished granite before he remembers himself and smiles. Like most Ozrenians, he smiles like a child caught daydreaming. His other nightmares he keeps to himself, as he has kept the story of his father’s death from me for three decades.
The Commandant at Vozutcha, a Serb village at the very southern tip of Ozren Mountain, is an unsmiling man, but then he’s not an Ozrenian. He’s from Banovitchi, a small Muslim town not far off, from which he escaped in March 1992, a month before the Bloody Wedding of Sarajevo on April 6.
April 6 for the Serbs is the same as Pearl Harbor Day for the Americans. On April 6, 1941, my mother was awakened by the Nazi bombing of Belgrade, the worst after Rotterdam and Warsaw. April 6, 1941, was when it all started: Milosh’s silence and Mitcho Stupar’s nightmares and the Commandant’s grandfather’s renewed battle with the “Turks” (all Serbs outside of Serbia proper call the Muslims “Turks,” as the Muslims insisted on calling themselves until 1918 and their defeat in the Great War). With April 6, 1941, began my own family’s extinction, with the loss of three paternal uncles, mv grandfather, and my maternal aunt.
So, on April 6, 1992, someone in Vienna, Bonn, or Berlin, gave the nod to Alija Izctbegovic to start his march toward an Islamic State of Bosnia. (What the Teutonic policymakers had in mind, when they decided to destroy the former Yugoslavia and start anew the Balkan horror show, I do not know, nor do I, or Milosh Dragichevitch, or Mitcho Stupar, or anyone else I know, care. History shall judge them, as well as God, who, so far, has not been forgiving of them.) This was the day a Muslim gunman in Sarajevo shot at a Serb wedding party, killing the father of the groom, wounding the priest, and burning the church flag (the colors of the Serb Orthodox Christian Church—red, blue, and white—are the same as the Serb national colors). This was not, however, as the Commandant reminded me, when the current mess started. For a decade prior to that. Commandant, a young Serb, was made uneasy in his hometown of Banovitchi by taunts and subtle hints that he ought to move to Serbia, where all other pig Christians live.
Sometimes the hints (or instructions) were given with a smile, other times before or during a fight in the schoolyard or in the street, The Commandant was once stabbed by a Muslim schoolmate, but his father, a Communist Party stalwart, would not press charges; he did not want to endanger the fragile Bosnian “Brotherhood and Unity.” (That was in 1985, when—according to today’s wistful Western “analyst” reports—all was well and humming with the multinational, multicultural, multiconfessional mosaic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as of Yugoslavia itself.)
When the war between the Bosnian Serbs, on the one hand, and Germangoaded Bosnian Muslims and Croats, on the other, began, the Commandant was not surprised, but his Marxist father was. Despite all the federal money invested in Bosnia, despite all the brand-new roads, schools, hospitals, factories, and power plants, despite all progress, the Commandant’s father, mother, and young sister had to leave Banovitchi a week after April 6, because Muslim “militia” had twice visited their apartment, purportedly searching for their son. The first time, the Muslims—former friends and neighbors—took the family’s color TV set, their VCR, and the 3,000 German marks the Commandant’s father had set aside for hard times. The second time was punctuated by gunfire, at the family’s refrigerator and electric stove, after which a Muslim fighter with a green Islamic headband told the Commandant’s father that the next time they came, their bullets would be aimed elsewhere.
The trip to Belgrade was long and arduous, past Muslim checkpoints where some women and girls were fondled by the “militia”; the Commandant’s father, all his life a fervent internationalist and leftist, had been quite sure that his idol, Josip Broz Tito, had found the golden formula for successful and fulfilling “togetherness,” yet 1941 was repeating itself, when his father—and the Commandant’s grandfather—had to leave for the hills and fight for his life as Belgrade itself was occupied by the merciless Germans.
The “Dark Country,” as the Bosnians themselves call their land, had, for decades, been inhospitable to its Serbs, but the Commandant’s father had tried not to see it, confident that his place in the communist hierarchy—and the need for token Serbs in the administration, the arts, and the economy—would save him, and his family, from the fate of hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of Bosnian Serbs who had had to lease their homeland since the early 1960’s in search of peace of mind. In his native Banovitchi, he kept busy as poets Gojko Djogo and Rajko Nogo were hounded out of Sarajevo for singing of Serbs and their myths instead of “brotherhood and unity,” communism with a human face, or the joys of consumerism. He even spoke out against Mesha Selimovitch, a Muslim novelist who had gone to Belgrade, said that he was a Serb of Muslim faith, and decried Yugoslav Nobel Prizewinner Ivo Andric’s pages describing the Bosnian Muslims as renegades, militants, and fanatics.
“Bosnia,” wrote Alexander Hilferding, Russian Consul-General in Sarajevo in 1856, “is a country where the three Slavonic faiths: the Roman Catholics, the Serb Orthodox, and the Muslims hate each other with a passion exceeding only their hate, and mistrust, of all other foreigners, whether Frank or Ottoman.” Tito, the obscure adventurer foisted upon Yugoslavia by Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin, recognized Bosnia’s potential for ethnic shuffling, affirmative action, government intervention, and wealth redistribution long before the present champions of the New World Order. Like the Ottomans before him, who, in the words of Sir Charles Eliot, Secretary of the British Embassy at Constantinople from 1893 to 1898, “aided the minorities in their realm against the majorities” in order always to have the upper hand over the kit and kaboodle of them, Tito shrewdly foreshadowed today’s action by the “International Community,” the nascent World Government (United Nations), and NATO for the same reasons.
And so the Commandant’s father got caught by his own gullibility and lack of honor: before he left for Serb Ozren, the Commandant, a just-graduated economist, had told his parent that he was a fool to trust in the goodwill of people who had met each invading army over the last 100 years with the cry “Here come our men!” Standing, speechless—one with fury, the other with frustration—the Commandant and his father had parted, the Commandant to sit with us on a porch in Bolyanitch, on Ozren Mountain, the father to queue up in Belgrade for U.N. handouts and to pore over the news from Bosnia, Geneva, New York, and elsewhere, where men who did not know him were—in bad faith—to decide his fate.
As we listen to Vaskcrsiye Petkoviteh spin off another tune on his shargiya, we know that Ozren Mountain will not give in, regardless of who signs what, where, and for whose soul and honor’s sake. Like Serbs every where, Ozrenians do not believe in contracts between crooks and swindlers, and they will not suffer to play the fools. Our host, Branko Sofreniteh, an electrical engineer who gave up his secure and well-paying executive’s position in Panchevo, Serbia, to return to native Ozren and Bosnia as soon as the war started, smiles at Milosh’s cracks about an old Muslim hoja (priest) who remained silent on a train when a young Serb asked him for the time of day. “Why,” the hoja‘s wife asked her husband later, “did you not answer the young man?” And the hoja looked at his wife like a tired, battered, wise old man and said, “By Allah, if I had answered the giaour, he would have asked me this and that and finally said that he had no place to stay, and I would have had to call him to sleep over with us, and then he would have seen our daughter Merima, and she would have fallen in love with him, and they would have married, and who the hell needs a son-in-law who doesn’t even own a watch?”
Branko Sofrenitch, with the rest of us, roars with laughter, but not so much at the joke itself (he has heard it before), as at the way Milosh revels in it and at the wav we, Belgrade Serbs, enjoy his homemade brandy, gulped out of a bottle with hand-picked herbs of his own choice.
“I must tell you,” says Sofrenitch, “of how violins are made,” and he drags out a half-dozen instruments in various phases of construction. For Branko Sofrenitch is a violin-maker as well, besides being an engineer, a corporate man, and a warrior. He goes on to tell us, laughingly, how he chooses a maple in the woods, cuts it down, and cures it before painstakingly carving it into the shape of an instrument fit for masters.
“Canada,” says Sofrenitch, “has all sorts of maple, but no ‘ribbed’ maple good for the fiddle,” and he smiles mischievously. Sofrenitch is a small, wiry man, full of good humor and pep, a true Ozren Serb, because he regards a long face as a shortcoming. Blue-eyed, he looks at us, and asks his son to bring us some more brandy, bacon, and cheese, for the world’s a grim place as it is, and the best we can do is enjoy it, or laugh in its face.
Sofrenitch’s son is a strapping 16- year-old, and his daughter is two years younger: Branko has brought both of them into the war zone, for, to him, Ozren’s freedom is nonnegotiable. The young man is silent and watchful—he speaks only when spoken to and looks us visitors in the eye, knowing that the Ozren Order is older than the New World Order, or anybody else’s idea of what constitutes sound—anthropological, sociological, or political—wisdom.
And so we tuck away our shargiya and leave, the stopover at Sofrenitch’s over, with many more miles of Ozren to cover before returning to Belgrade and trying to do something about the insane “peace plan” championed by the “international community” and by Serbs faint of heart, who would leave Ozren and its 120,000 Serb Orthodox Christians in an Islamic state. (In Kuwait, for example, over half a million Christians are allowed only a single church, which must not display the cross and must have no bell or belltower.)
Since the Turkish occupation of Bosnia in the 16th century, there was never a mosque on Ozren Mountain, as no one there, ever, turned Muslim; even during World War II, when Milosh Dragichevitch’s father and 400 other Serbs were tricked into capture and execution (they were summoned by the Croat and Muslim government to register as taxpayers in Petrovo Selo before being rounded up and shipped, like so much cattle, to Jasenovac, which so many Croat spokesmen are trying to write off as a place that did not exist or where only 30,000 Serbs, Gypsies, and Jews were exterminated instead of over half a million, as hundreds of excavated mass graves attest)—even then the enemy did not enter Ozren Mountain, except in April 1943, when over 40,000 Ustashi were defeated by some 3,000 Ozren Chetniks. Whoever has designed Bosnian “peace” without considering the wishes of the Ozren Serbs has—on purpose, or out of sheer ignorance, or, even worse, out of malice or stupidity—laid out the groundwork for the next 100 years of war. Aiding the “underdog” (in the case of Bosnia, the Muslims) is the best way to have Bosnia and Herzegovina on CNN well into the next century. Moreover, to speak of today’s Bosnian Muslims as an “oppressed minority” would be akin to claiming similar status for the Nazis in Europe, or for the descendants of Genghis Khan in, say, Warsaw.
Today, even in Spain—whose own Reconquista has lasted over 700 years—there is clamor against Serbs trying to reunify their ethnic territories, torn away from them over centuries of criminal intervention by various “international communities.” Ozren Serbs will not stand back and suffer any foreign troops—U.N., NATO, or other—to patrol their territory and referee “justice” to them. Much less will they accept any “law,” “international” or otherwise, which boils down to a dictate to die so that someone can play Santa Claus to antiwhite, anti-European, anti-Western powers whose eminence is, in historical terms, a mere spark in the millennia of their darkness.
As I shake hands with Vaskersiye Petkovitch, a blond, silent, respectful giant of a man, I know that he—soft-spoken and given to music as he is—will personally cut to pieces any man who signs away his birthright to Ozren Mountain, where Serbs have built Christian monasteries since the 13th century. Vaskersiye’s ancestors are buried in one of them, generation after battling generation, and Vaskersiye can no more leave them than he can leave his son and daughter, living in a hamlet close to Branko Sofrenitch’s village of Bolyanitch.
Vaskersiye, a civil engineer, gestures with his huge palm and says, “Though it is war, we are building a highway through our Mountain! So far, the Turks and the Commies have kept us in the boondocks, but all we need is a year without shooting. Next time you come to Ozren, the 50 miles of our length you will cover in half an hour, instead of trundling around in a jeep, four hours at a stretch!”
I wave at them all and go, to write this account of ethnic cleansing, massacres, mass rapes, and concentration camps, all committed against my people for centuries and transformed in this magnificent age into libel, defamation, and an arraignment of us, for having survived.